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5 tips for creating healthy habits in the workspace

We live in a world where the answers we need and services we need are as far away as a tap of an icon on our phone. Not only is the rate of social media usage increasing exponentially, but the environment and the way in which we now work have changed drastically.

With companies promoting an always-on service, many employees are finding it hard to foster that ideal ‘work-life’ balance as this would require them to consciously get off that productivity treadmill that they find themselves running on.

With us spending most of our time at work, we easily slip into certain habits. The social influence imparted on us by our co-workers, the environment which dictates what food is readily available and whether we can move around while we take a break, as well as the interest of management in creating a healthy work-culture, all have an impact on the habits we create at work.

With many companies trying to Google-ise, or turning to businesses such as wework, to transform their workspace into an experience rather than an office, an apparent shift to creating environments where employees feel more relaxed, at-home and connected to one another, is coming about.

The question is, is this enough? According to an article published in Forbes magazine, while a playful workspace is good, millennials are more concerned about whether their jobs can support a happy and healthy lifestyle and truly fulfil their purpose and expectations. In addition to this, studies show that working in a way which doesn’t lend itself to promoting healthy work habits, results in a low morale, decrease in productivity and high absenteeism.

Whether you work for yourself or you’re part of a large company, the trends of negative work habit formations and the challenges leading to a healthier well-rounded lifestyle are apparent across the board.
Ask yourself: How does your work affect you mentally, physically and socially and what small changes can you make? Maybe, a good place to start, is with these five basic steps.


1 Be prepared

Being prepared is one of the fundamental aspects of allowing yourself to have a healthy work life. Policies specifying what can be sold by the in-office shops, vendors or work canteens might sound ideal, but it is a difficult and time-consuming process. It is always easier to change your immediate environment – and that looks to you.

The week can get busy, stressful and time-limiting. Make sure you have a master shopping list and that you do your big shop on the weekend, leaving the rushed midweek shop for the fresh essentials. Pre-cook your nourishing meals if necessary and store them in easy portion sizes, with labels, in the freezer, defrosting your desired meals the day before you need them. Always add a quick-to-prepare raw ingredient to your defrosted dish to optimize nutritional benefit such as cabbage, baby spinach salads or fresh herbs. Take a cooler bag with you to work with your ready-made meals and snacks, because when you stressed, hungry and unprepared anything goes and suddenly your highly processed, fatty and sugary foods are on your desk. These may be easy and do the trick, but the energy they provide will not last long and soon you will be searching for more.

Going through a phase of madness at work and even the weekend preparations are not happening? There is a great company called Daily Dietitians which I often recommend, that provide tailor made nourishing meals to your door. They even go as far as catering to all your likes and dislikes.


2 Run your day with mindfulness and intention

Mindfulness-based interventions require us to be present in the moment, while encouraging us to perform our daily tasks with intention, in a non-judgemental way. Mindful eating allows us to appreciate the nurturing opportunities that our food can provide us with as well as acknowledging and honouring our hunger cues and how we respond to certain food choices. Re-developing your hunger intuition is an important concept whereby you are constantly challenged to re-assess whether you are tummy hungry or mouth hungry, and if you are tummy hungry, how hungry you really are.

Tummy and mouth what?! Let me elaborate. If we are tummy hungry, we can truly feel the physical cues involved in hunger. If we are mouth hungry, we should ask ourselves “what are we truly hungry for?”, is it a bored hunger, a stressed-hunger a ritual hunger? By identifying where our mouth hunger is coming from, we can then solve that hunger appropriately instead of with food.

Although this may seem like an ‘airy fairy’ tip, mindfulness and being in tune with our hunger is the most important and most challenging concept to master. An article in the Harvard Business Review about how Google uses behavioural economics to optimise their employees’ health,  emphasizes that as a result of our high intensity work hours, our eating behaviours tend to be instinct-driven and impulsive and that choosing to eat a food item with more intention, as well as habitualizing healthy habits in the first place, can relieve us from making unhealthier food choices.


3 Re-assess your food-based rituals and readily-available snacks

One of the strongest habits formed at work is that food-orientated social meeting ritual you have with your colleagues. I mean, who doesn’t want a break with their mates which involves tasty snacks or that coffee fix during that dreaded afternoon lull. Socializing at work is imperative for networking and emotional connectivity, but it might be time to re-assess what comes hand-in-hand with your socializing time. A tip would be to allocate your coffee to the time of day at which you take your break. Take your pre-packed meal or snack with you for your lunch chill session. Re-assess whether that sweet jar on your friend’s desk is a necessity or just a Polyfilla and an excuse to have a chat when you bored.


4 “A meeting with someone important” – block off your diary

Who is this someone important… your boss or your top client? No. Try again. Its YOU. This sounds crazy and impractical, however if you make the habit of pencilling yourself on your ‘to do’ list and making sure you follow-through with your meeting with yourself, this too will become a habit. Unfortunately, we often don’t put ourselves down as a priority, and if we do, we often call that meeting off. As Dion Chang, South Africa’s most respected trend analyst, questioned, “would you call off a meeting with Nelson Mandela as a result of work?”. Do not underestimate the impact that burnout and stress can have on your physical and mental wellbeing. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, emphasizes how burnout is associated with the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and an increase in poor food choices.


5 Get moving

Long periods of sedentary behaviour increase the risk for the development of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and more. A recent study also showed that sedentary behaviour does not only contribute to poor physical health, but it also results in shrinkage of the temporal lobe of the brain, resulting in memory loss. Increasing our movement during the day improves our posture, increases blood flow and lymph drainage in our body, works our muscles including our heart and our gut, gives our brains a rest, helps us to burn more calories and so much more. Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. From time to time, walk to your colleague’s desk instead of sending them an e-mail. Work at a standing height-adjustable work surface. Set your alarm or your FitBit to buzz every hour, reminding you to get up and walk around. Every small movement counts.


In the ideal world, where we could change work policies and work spaces to be friendlier towards healthy habit formation, implementing healthier habits at work may come more easily. Until such a day where more modern companies ensure that this is their focus, get going by using one of the tips above. And when you’re ready, make a list of what your negative work habits might be, and what simple steps you can take to gradually change them. Remember, at the end of the day, your work may not be with you forever, but the path you choose for your health will.

Nourish yourself to the sunrise.

Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM

Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?

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